Sitting outside Anthony’s Delicatessen – unofficially known as Germano’s or ‘Dog HQ’ – you can often see a group of dog owners and friends who take their dogs and the community very seriously. The dogs are Primrose Hill’s Community Dogs, whose aim is to unite, bring joy and support local causes through their shared love of dogs.
Two of the regulars, Oswald (a 10-year-old mini Dachshund who is full of love and wisdom) and Lofty, are best friends. They meet each morning at 8 am for tea and a cuddle ‒ a great way to start the day. Lofty, a life-time animal lover, lives in social housing and is unable to have a dog of his own due to various health issues. He entertains with his brilliant life stories, including tales of his four Alsatian dogs and how he trained falcons and eagles. He says, “Knowing that the dogs are at the cafe motivates me to get out. They help me forget about my health issues, and are great conversations starters too. I meet lots of new people through the dogs.”
One of the dog’s favourite humans is Germano. Known to the dogs as Meat Man, he has worked in Primrose Hill for 32 years ‒ 24 of those as manager at Anthony’s Delicatessen. Loved and valued not only by the dogs but also by the community, he sets a great example.
Pet therapy is nothing new: its purpose is to help people recover from or cope with a health problem or mental disorder. This basic philosophy has been applied in Primrose Hill and tailored towards local needs. Gilbert, the founder, is a fully trained Pets as Therapy dog.
Primrose Hill Community Dogs try to make our community a better place through dogs. Funds are raised through the Dog Show at the biannual fairs on Regent’s Park Road, and general donations. The Dog Show this year will be held on Sunday 17 November, aiming to raise funds and awareness for the Foodbank and St Mary’s Youth Centre, and day-to-day activities such as walks, tea and chats with the sick and elderly, and meet-and-greets with local children.
Other success stories include Mentor Award-winner Camden Women’s Hostel, the Pet Foodbank pop-up at Chalk Farm Foodbank, and teaming up with Primrose Hill Pets to make Primrose Hill a known dog destination; the yellow ‘Dogs Welcome’ stickers in shops work well for both dog owners and local businesses. At one point 85% of Primrose Hill businesses were dog-friendly.
Primrose Hill Community Dogs have close ties with both the Chalk Farm Foodbank in Primrose Hill and St Mary’s Youth Centre. Each December they work together to organise a Christmas lunch for a hundred homeless people.
Demand is so high this year they are planning two lunches, one at the Salvation Army and the other at St Mary’s. Before the lunch they run the Trolley Appeal, in which individuals or businesses are invited to fill a trolley with Christmas items such as non-perishable food, clothing, toys and games, and donate it to the Foodbank. The aim is to get at least a hundred full trollies, each of which is gifted to a family who attend the lunch. The afternoon includes a three-course meal, pop-up gifting area, and entertainment provided by Merv De Peyer.
Local businesses give their support, with Odette’s donating the soup starter, the Princess of Wales the vegetables and soft drinks, and Gary Ingham providing free haircuts. There are many residents and businesses supporting these initiatives. Everyone wants to get involved, because it’s an idea that works and has a real impact.